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'Scandal' star Bellamy Young: 'Drunk Mellie' scared me

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  • First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) has some hooch on ABC's "Scandal."
First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) has some hooch on ABC's "Scandal." (Handout )
October 23, 2013|By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol | RedEye

Nearly a week after "Scandal" First Lady Mellie Grant got sloshed and told off her philandering husband, fans still are buzzing about "Drunk Mellie."

Bellamy Young is happy to hear it, but she was initially terrified about delivering the moonshine-fueled monologue on the ABC hit.

"I worried so much about that scene," Young told me during a recent phone interview. "I got that speech and I got scared, 'cause acting drunk can go so wrong. But my Lord, the journey in that speech—the emotional topography—it just took work."

She immediately began working on the scene—"pestering" her acting coach as she put it—and rehearsing the words, the emotions and the physicality of being drunk.

"You just have to be responsible with the opportunity at hand, right?" she said. "You get handed that speech and you work your hardest to give it everything it deserves. And you hope that you can embody the story that it has embedded, 'cause the story was so complicated and so real for so many of us.

"It was just really exciting to do the work on the words and then to show up and stare at Tony and just hope that something poured out."

Something spectacular poured out. As you can see in the clip below, Young further proved she should be at the top of everyone's Emmy nominations list next year. In the three-minute scene in which Mellie is celebrating the survival of President Fitzgerald Grant's (Tony Goldwyn) love, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), she goes from giddy and giggly to cold and calculating, but still manages to reveals just a bit of Mellie's pain and pragmatism. It was heartbreaking and harrowing.

Things don't get much easier for Mellie in this week's episode, "Say Hello to My Little Friend," debuting at 9 p.m. CT Oct. 24 on ABC.

Lisa Kudrow begins her recurring role as Josephine Marcus, a Democratic Congresswoman who is critical of Fitz. In a teaser for the episode at the bottom of this story, Marcus suggests during a TV appearance that the sex scandal-plagued president "tame his cobra." Marcus also lock horns with Mellie.

"There will be a kerfuffle," Young teased. "Mellie will make a beautiful mess, as is her amazing talent to do. And it will be Lisa who will hold the power cards there."

Young couldn't give details about the mess Mellie gets into, but said it will be "personal and public and present." Maybe she'll unleash Drunk Mellie on Marcus.
"Lisa's great in this part," Young added.

Young and I talked more about the Drunk Mellie moments in "Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington," Mellie's state of mind and where things are going to go in the "war" against Fitz.

You were incredible in the episode.
Oh my God, thank you so much.

Talk about pulling focus away from everyone else. I was like, "Kerry Washington, who's that?"
No. Hardly. She was amazing last night, too. That scene with her and Guillermo at the end, ... they ripped my heart out. And Cynthia Stevenson too, I sprouted tears. She broke me down. It was a good episode, right? When we got that script I was like, what!? And the episode did not disappoint. It was amazing.

You guys have three episodes worth of stuff in each episode.
I just came from a table read for 309, and literally I feel like I have lived another year of my life. That one episode—I don't even know how to tell you Curt—if I could tell you they would find me and shoot me. But no, I don't know how they do it. I genuinely don't know how they get so much stuff.

It's so hyperbolized in some degree because it's so adrenalized. But they also root it in some real relationships, real conflicts, real moral ambiguity and it really resonates. It's terrifying; it's amazing. I don't know how they do it. That is not a gift I have, the writing.

How does one play drunk?
One runs immediately to one's coach and says, "Help me not over act." Because pretending to die and pretending to be drunk are such traps as an actor. So for us it was really grounding it. We never see Mellie unguarded. You never see a vulnerable Mellie, you never see an open Mellie, you never see a softness, you never see Mellie's little underbelly.

I wanted to take off—at least I got one pearl earring off. I've got my necklace off. I wanted to armor, but for that to be the opening. And so we start from there with just a looseness in your body. Like feeling—that table just felt so good. You know how you drink a little bit and you just feel things differently and your speech is a little slower?

It was really getting the relaxation in my body, that and the moonshine in the glass. I mean obviously I'm method, Curt. I'm gonna be drinking. Just kidding.

You had a little hooch, huh?
[Laughs.] A little hooch. I don't play.

From your real North Carolina relatives.
Exactly. [Laughs.] My real Pappy.

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